AN ARTICLE FROM THE BASEBALL MAGAZINE:JULY
THE CRAB NOBODY KNOWS
Q: NAME THE ONLY BATTERS WHO HIT OVER .400 THREE TIMES IN THEIR CAREERS?
A: WELL LETS SEE. THERE WAS TY COBB AND THE OTHER GUY WAS, MAYBE RUTH OR
Q: RUTH NEVER HIT.400. COBB AND HORNSBY DID. THERE WAS ONE MORE. CAN YOU
A: ONE MORE HUH. THAT SHOULDNT BE HARD. HOW ABOUT HONUS WAGNER?
A: IT WASNT WAGNER? WELL THEN IT WAS PROBABLY BILL TERRY OR TRIS SPEAKER OR
PROBABLY TED WILLIAMS
A: NO? LET ME THINK FOR A MOMENT HOW ABOUT, WHATS HIS NAME ..THAT
FRENCHMAN, NAPOLEON La JOIE?
Q: GOOD GUESS, BUT IT WASNT HIM. IT WAS JESSE BURKETT.
A: WHO? I NEVER HEARD OF HIM. HES NOT EVEN IN THE HALL OF FAME FOR GODS SAKE.
Q: YOURE RIGHT YOUVE NEVER HEARD OF HIM AND YOURE WRONG, HE WAS VOTED
INTO THE HALL OF FAME IN 1946.
A: WELL IMAGINE THAT. JESSE BURKETT. YOU DONT HEAR TOO MUCH ABOUT HIM.
Not only did Jesse Burkett hit over .400 three times in his career, he had a lifetime average of.341. One of the forgotten men of baseball, he had as his nickname, THE CRAB. Besides hitting, nastiness seemed to be his forte. Belligerent, ill tempered, Jesse Burkett managed to insult and foul-mouth most people he came in contact with. When he coached for the Giants the players did not vote him a share of the World Series money. Rumor has it that manger John McGraw gave him money from his own pocket.
Whatever he was as a man pales beside his accomplishments on the baseball field. Batting left handed, standing 58 and weighing just 155 pounds, he was a terror as a hitter. His line drives would come whizzing by like a rocket. He would invariably beat out bunts because of his amazing speed. He was so good at fouling off pitches, that a rule was introduced making fouls, strikes. He led the league in batting average in 1895, 96 and 01. Playing in 2,063 games he hit .341, had 95 RBI, and belted 75 HR. The HR total was quite impressive because this was the dead ball era. He hit over .300 eleven times in his sixteen seasons in the majors. He played for five different teams, (Giants, Cleveland Spiders, Cards, Browns, and Red Sox) and I imagine his acerbic personality had some thing to do with that number.
After his career was over he managed several Minor League clubs. I could imagine what sort of rapport he had with his players. He died in 1953 at the ripe old age of 85 after seeing himself elected into the Hall Of Fame in 1946. A forgotten man indeed, but a very great ballplayer.